Thursday, June 10, 2021

The heist

That was the last local. There were very few passengers in the train. Ravi had a hour’s journey to make. He chose a corner of the compartment to snatch some sleep. At the next station someone had boarded the train and came straight to the corner Ravi had chosen. There were four or five scattered passengers towards the other end.

“Lucky I could get into this train. I am told this is the last one”, he said

Ravi just nodded as he did not like this interruption to his sleep. But the fat man had other ideas and possibly wished to chat during the entire journey.

“Do you take this last train daily? Are you working somewhere?” he asked.

“Yes, I work in an IT company and usually take the earlier train. I was held up today”

“Good. I know IT companies pay very well for the hard work you people put in and work only five days. You must be married and living with your family”

Ravi did not respond and looked out at the passing lights and cars.

“I am sorry if I had asked you personal questions. I cannot resist asking as I have one qualified younger sister to be married.”

“It is okay. I am single and living alone.”

“Where do you live? I am in Egmore”

“I am also in Egmore” Ravi said with a smile

“Where?”

“I live in the first floor of the house adjacent to Hotel Simha.It is close to railway station”

“Won’t you be disturbing your land lord going at this late hour?”

“No, there is separate staircase and entrance on the side. He may not even know when I come or go.”

“Being alone how do you spend time?”

I have my desktop, laptop, iPad, a small TV, DVD and musical instruments like guitar. I I enjoy myself with these” said Ravi

“It is surprising we haven’t met so far. Any way please excuse me, I have an urgent call to make. Nice to meet you” said the fat guy and went to a vacant seat two empty rows behind

Ravi closed his eyes relieved that he had been let off by the bore so soon.

A short while later the fat guy dialed some number and talked almost in a whisper. Ravi thought he was considerate to him thinking he was asleep.

“Pandi, listen carefully. I am travelling in train and cannot talk loudly. One guy is beside me sleeping. I mentioned to you about that house in Ekattuthangal.I went to that area to inspect as there was some complaint about signal being weak. I assumed it was that house” and stopped talking turning to Ravi’s side. Finding Ravi sleeping he continued in very low voice”There was none in that house as no one answered the bell. I went to the rear side to see whether anyone was there. Finding none and curiosity overtaking me, I gently pushed the rear door. To my great surprise it opened and the house bore no semblance of occupation.”

Ravi pretending to be asleep strained his ears to listen as the telephonic talk became intriguing.

“I am telling the truth, Pandi.It is no reel (imaginary falsehood).I gingerly walked in inspecting each room. They must be rich with all floors carpeted, top class furniture, curios etc.I was careful not to touch anything. Are you listening, Pandi? Here comes the important part. I swear you will not believe what I am going to tell you”

 Ravi could not contain his curiosity and strained every nerve to catch the conversation.

The fat man continued on the phone.”I went inside one large bedroom. There were three Godrej Almirahs.I suddenly panicked. What if someone comes and catches me in the house, I wondered. I would be branded a thief and handed over to police. Then I thought having come this far why not see a little more. I tried to open one almirah.It did not open. Then I tried the other. That too did not budge. When I tried the third, lo, it opened. In my inquisitiveness, I opened the locker door and to my utter amazement it was also unlocked.

Believe me, there were wads and wads of currency notes may be running into several lakhs or crores in higher denomination. Must be ill gotten money stashed away, I presumed. I just took two wads as I had an apprehension it could be counterfeit as otherwise who would leave it unsecured. I closed the doors and left them as it was wiping the handles of any finger print. Without telling the source, I had two notes from each of the bundles checked by my bank friend. He said they were genuine.”

He turned to Ravi’s side and found him to his comfort snoring softly. “Pandi, listen carefully. Tomorrow sharp at 7am we will be there. As you come from the main road it is the third Street to right. There is a post box opposite the cream colored house. There are vacant plots on both sides. The fence is green shrubbery. Bring a sturdy bag with you. We should not be greedy and take a small portion each time.Good, so you will be there at 7 am sharp tomorrow.”

He saw Ravi in slumber and nudged him when the train reached Egmore station. Both got down and went their separate ways.

Ravi set the alarum at 5am and left in his motorbike by 530 next morning to Ekattuthangal to steal a march over the fat guy and his accomplice. The directions were so clear, he thought, if the job were done smoothly, he would be rich. He was there by 6 am but could find no house with vacant plots on either side or one with a green fence or a post box in the road. Could it be 2nd street or 4th street? He roamed hither and thither till he finally gave up his hunt.

When Ravi returned home disappointed and climbed the stairs tiredly, he found to his shock the door ajar and every little thing in his place taken away.


Sunday, June 6, 2021

A happy denouement

It was a Saturday morning. Anand had promised during breakfast his children Rahul and Shreya that he would take them to the beach the next day evening. The two kids jumped in great glee.

The girl asked,” Appa, would you permit us to take a pony ride. My friend Vanita said it is very safe.”

Not to be left behind, Rahul said rather peremptorily,” Appa, I will stand in the water. You can stand by my side if you wish but should not hold my hand.”

Anand laughed and mockingly said, “Your wishes are my commands.”

At the office he had just spoken to his good friend and colleague Sanjana about the Sunday programme with his kids.

“Why don’t you too join us? It would be fun,” he requested her.

“Why not? I would love to play with them. Give me a ring when you start. I would be there at the beach,” she replied enthusiastically.

“I think it would be better if you come home for lunch. I would ask mami to cook for you too. The children would enjoy your company,” he suggested. She readily agreed.

The phone rang. It was Rahul reminding about the beach visit.

” Rahul, I haven’t forgotten. I have already asked Sanjana aunty to join us and she had agreed. Inform Shreya, she will be happy”.

Anand had lost his wife three years ago to a brain tumour. It was tough period managing the children and grieving the void left behind by his wife. The solitude despite the children was too much for him. Though he tried his best to keep the children happy always, yet he could sense the melancholy in their eyes. He had employed full time an elderly mami to cook for them and take care of the children during his absence. She was treated with respect as another member of the family

Mami had made oblique suggestions several times that the children need a mother’s love more than him for companionship. He had not thought of another woman in his wife’s place till he met Sanjana of the same office in a seminar. They were paired for panel discussions providing them opportunities to spend the entire two days together. Anand was no longer the same sullen person. Sanjana was a whiff of fresh air that he longed for in his life. She was also a single. They contrived reasons to meet each other daily on some pretext or the other. Both were soon deeply in love with each other. The kids also liked Sanjana and her easy ways in getting along with them. She invariably brought things to eat and knickknacks. She took particular interest in winning the confidence and heart of the young girl. She used to drop in frequently and helped mami in small ways. Mami knew and was happy what was brewing between Anand and Sanjana and prayed for a happy denouement.

It was Sunday evening and the four of them were walking happily on the sandy beach.

“Rahul and Shreya, take your shoes off and give them to me. It is easy to walk or run without the shoes. Shreya, you also run along with him. Do not go near the water till we come. You two can have pony rides later as the place is crowded.” said Anand.

Shreya lingered and pleaded “Aunty, won’t you please come with me. I am afraid of the waves. Will a Tsunami come? My friend told me it swallowed even people walking on the road.”

Sanjana told her “Do not be afraid. The waves will not come near you as you will be far away from the water. No more Tsunami. Go with Rahul. I will come behind with your dad. We will not be far behind you.”

As the girl ran behind the boy, Anand held Sanjana’s hand and walked slowly side by side rubbing shoulders.

Anand broke the silence and said, “I have not broached the subject of our marriage in the house. But mami I feel knows and in fact has been obliquely persuading me to get married. She knows we are in love and she likes you. Both of us are in deep love with each other though I am not sure whether the children have an inkling that you would soon take their mom’s place. I do not envisage any problem from Rahul and hopefully Shreya would welcome you.”

“Anand, I wish that we tie the knot soon. I cannot be away from you any longer and want to be with you all the time. Please hurry” pleaded Sanjana

“Sure, it is vacation for them I will talk to them soon at an appropriate time but will tell mami. Do not worry” said Anand

They then spent time standing with children on the water as the waves washed their legs. Shreya snuggled by Sanjana’s side and found comfort and security in her hands.

Two days later as he was working on his laptop in the night both the kids snuggled up to him and said “Daddy, we have a request. We wish to celebrate Mother’s day this Sunday at 6pm. We have pooled our allowances and we intend to buy a cake from the Italian bakery. We want to have it cut before our mom’s photo. Please invite Sanjana aunty also for this occasion. make sure she attends.”

Anand was totally surprised and wanted to play along with his children by readily agreeing to their request. It was Sunday and the large box containing the cake and tied with ribbon was kept on the circular glass dining table. Opposite on the wall was their mom’s photo. Sanjana had also come as promised.

Rahul and Shreya in chorus said, “We will blind fold aunty and dad. They will open the cake box and only then the blindfold would be removed.”

Both Sanjana and Anand were intrigued but joined the fun by getting their eyes covered by a red cloth. When they opened their eyes amidst the clapping of the kids, they were thrilled to read the icing text on the cake.

Dear Sanjana mom,

Happy Mother’s day,

Rahul and Shreya

Sanjana wiped the tears flowing from eyes even as Shreya pulled her close to Anand and placed her hand on Anand’s.

Rahul urged her to cut the cake and feed papa first.

Mami was standing by kitchen door wiping her tears of joy


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Smita's U-turn

Smita exploded in anger. “I cannot agree to your hustling me into a marriage. You know that I have been wanting to study further and become a professional. I am just a post graduate in English literature and would like to do a course in journalism in a reputed institution. I will not marry for two more years. That is final." 

“Smita, you are 24 already. The match that has come is very good. The people are from decent background. The boy is highly qualified and in a senior executive position in a MNC with a bright future. They are also wealthy and a small family. Please do not be adamant. As parents do you think we would do anything against your interests,” said her mom softly. Her dad nodded in agreement.

“I don’t care whether I am 24 or more. People marry even in early thirties. I just need two more years and Heavens are not going to fall by my not marrying immediately. The guy is also not the last eligible bachelor. They are dime a dozen. Amma, please do not make me disobey you both. Allow me to do what pleases me,” said Smita

“Smita, listen to me. You don’t have to marry if you don’t wish to. We have given our word to them who are well known to your dad. They will be coming to see you tomorrow. I am told the boy is very handsome. If you do not like, we will not proceed further, I promise. We will give some excuse like horoscope not matching or some such. Please help us to honour our word” said her mom softly.

“OK, I agree. Do not ever dream that I would fall for this guy and succumb to your plans. I would just meet him as I do so many outside. Dad, I hope I have made myself clear” replied Smita

Though Smita agreed, she suspected it as a clever ploy by her parents. She decided to take the bull by the horns. She would meet the fellow Shyam at his office and let him know her disinterest in marriage and request him to help her by rejecting her hand. 

It was 4pm when she tapped on the door his cabin in the office. He was surrounded by many discussing some official matter.

When he saw her at the door, he stood up not knowing who she was and said, “Is there any scheduled meeting with me, Miss…You could have informed me about your arrival and the purpose through the reception. I would have come personally to receive you. Anyway, it is fine.” When he looked at others apologetically, they took the cue and left the cabin immediately.

” Kindly take your seat, miss….  I do not think I have met you before. I am Shyam and look after the marketing.” he said.

“Smita is my name. I am sorry for intruding unannounced in the midst of your work. I had to meet you very urgently with an unusual request”

“Smita is a sweet name.  If it is a matter of importance and urgency, I suggest we go down to the cafeteria at the ground floor. Here we would be disturbed by innumerable phone calls and visitors barging in. I can spare you 30 minutes,” said Shyam as he got up. She could not say anything but nod her head.

Once seated in the corner of a rather empty cafeteria, Shyam with an infectious smile asked her “Your face is somewhat familiar. What will you like to have? Can I order some pakoras and coffee? Do you have any preference?”

Smita was taken aback at the easy candour and camaraderie in his manner. He looked very handsome, much more than what she had visualized and he was well built with strong arms. His curly hair and a small mole on his cheek only enhanced his charm. But she steeled herself not to be taken in by these attractions and decided to express herself clearly.

Smita started muttering haltingly, “I have come to ask of you a personal favour. It is like this. I understand….”

He stopped her midway saying “Ssshh, we will talk about it later. Let us know each other first. I am a M.Tech from IIT and Vice President, marketing, here. Tell me something about you before we become friends,” and laughed rather loudly to her embarrassment.

“I am a PG in English literature and wish to acquire a diploma in journalism from a reputed institute. I wish to be a writer. I write poems and short stories in my blog that has a large following. I am glad you wish to be my friend. But the purpose of my meeting you is entirely different and rather urgent,” she said softly

Shyam took an instant liking for her, struck by her beauty, tall and lissome figure and her hazel eyes. He wished to prolong the conversation and strike a friendship with her.

“Your purpose can wait, Smita. I will surely listen to it in a while. First things first. Have the pakoras quickly as the coffee is getting cold and keep telling me your other interests. Incidentally I whole heartedly welcome your plan to study further. Knowledge is power,” he said in a supporting way.

Enthused by his appreciation of her plan, she continued, “I am fond of fiction and a voracious reader, fond of light music and movies though selectively. I also have a travel itch wanting to see new places and love cooking. I am politically alert and keep abreast of happenings in the country and abroad. This summarizes my profile in brief. You may like to tell about you and the things you like.”

 “Yes, as I told you, it is a wise decision to do a PG diploma in journalism. You must do it. Why haven’t you joined already.? What is holding you? My interests are very similar to you except that time does not permit me to indulge in reading fiction that is so dear to me. I have a huge collection of books in my library. I too like travelling though not alone,” he guffawed with a mischievous twinkle. Smita lowered her eyes though she did not miss the subtle point he was making.

Putting on  a serious face, he asked, "What is it you wanted to tell me ever since you set your eyes on me?” 

“It is like this. My parents want me to get married immediately. I am against it for fear that the man who marries me may not allow me later to pursue my studies for one reason or the other. We have been fighting over this at our home,” said Smita.

“Which fool will stop a talented wife not to continue her studies? I for one would go all the way supporting my would-be-wife in her literary and academic pursuits. I will take pride in her work. Ask your parents to ascertain this beforehand from the guy and you can achieve two things in one stroke. Is this the only objection to your not willing to marry or do you have anyone else in mind?” asked Shyam.

“Chee, Chee! There is nothing else except my further studies “said Smita emphatically.

Shyam asked her with a faint smirk,” Now tell me what is the help you wanted from me on some important personal matter and why you chose an unknown stranger like me?”

“Oh, it is nothing. The matter is since resolved . Please do not press and I will explain later,” replied Smita with a coy smile.

“You came all the way to barge into my room unannounced when I was in an important meeting, spent long time in cafeteria munching pakoras and taking one hour of my time in the process only to tell me at the end that you have nothing to tell me and that your matter is since resolved. Come out clean, Smita. Don’t feel shy” said Shyam with a grin.

“Sorry Shyam. I came with a definite purpose in mind. After my meeting you and the pleasant discussions with you and knowing your attitude, I have second thoughts on the wisdom of my earlier purpose. It is very nice to meet you. I am greatly impressed by your kind courtesy.  Let us hope we would meet again. Sorry to have imposed on your time. But it helped me resolve my tricky issue to my utter satisfaction. Thanks a lot for your patience.” Smita said as she stood up extending her hand.

“You are an enigma, Smita. I am glad we met and hope to meet you soon, may be tomorrow itself, who knows? "he said shaking her hands continuously to her joy. He was happy to play along with her by not revealing about the letter from his dad with her photo and the appointment at her house the next day. 

 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

A fateful couch


Samuel, the inspector of police, looked grimly at the antique sofa and the kitchen knife pulled out from under the seat. It was a long kitchen knife coated with dry blood in brown colour. He checked both sides minutely.

“How did you come to know that a knife was inside the cushion? You said you bought it from auctioneers. When was that? “the inspector asked without looking at anyone in particular.

“Let me explain. I am Mohan, Lalita’s brother, living separately in Annanagar. I had come this morning on a casual visit. My sister’s husband was away on tour My sister and her husband had bought the set ten days back at an auctioneer. It was only this morning when we were having coffee, my sister brought to my attention that some hard material at the left corner of three-seater where she was seated was making it uncomfortable to sit, When I sat, I also felt the same. We thought that some wooden piece might haven left behind inadvertently under the seat cushion” replied Mohan.

Samuel turned the long sofa upside down and observed the place from where the knife was pulled out. There was a slight smudge brown in colour on the cushion cloth.

” Can one of you throw more light on its discovery and who helped in taking it out? Do not miss any detail however insignificant,” asked the inspector.

“Let me explain,” offered Lalita and added, “I have been wanting to have a good sofa set to receive visitors. We had an old one which we disposed of. We looked for an antique set that would suit my taste. At the auctioneer’s shop, we were very much impressed with this carved wooden sofa in walnut color. We found it very comfortable when we tried sitting on the single-seater. I felt it would give a sense of grandeur to our living room. Luckily it also matched with table on which our TV was kept. The upholstery was almost new needing no change. We paid very much less than what a new furniture of similar design but with lesser beauty would have costed.”

“Did you not try the comfort of the sofa by sitting at different places when you bought?”

“We did sit on the two single seaters and also on the middle of three seater and found nothing amiss then,” said Lalita.

 “Tell me who opened the upholstery and pulled out the knife?” nudged the inspector.

“Mohan and me turned the sofa upside down and could not find anything from outside except a smudge of rusty mark at the corner. Luckily some carpenters were working in the adjacent vacant apartment doing some wood work. I brought one of them to check. When the cover at the bottom was opened slightly after turning it upside down again, he found the handle part slightly protruding. He pulled it to see a long kitchen knife coated with dry blood in brown colour. Shocked at the revelation, we kept the knife aside. I pleaded with Mohan to stay back and help in resolving the matter,” explained Lalita

The inspector took the knife cautiously examining it on all sides. It was coated with dry blood on the blade right up to the handle. He put the knife aside on a newspaper and kept it rolled.

“What did you do thereafter?”

“I rang up the auctioneering shop and explained the stunning find inside the sofa and requested that the sofa set be taken back as we felt it was an inauspicious purchase and mixed possibly with crime. The manger however politely declined telling that they are not aware of what is contained inside each item they buy for eventual selling on what is as is basis. When we demurred and pleaded for his help, he suggested that we can leave the set there again as a new deal with a new floor price for auctioning after removing the offending part,” said Mohan.

” Hmm, what have you decided? What do you want the police to do?” asked the inspector.

“We haven’t decided. My husband is also away. Mohan however advised me since a blood soaked knife indicated a possible criminal act, it is best to inform the police without loss of time. As a law abiding citizen, I also wished to apprise the police and be on the clear. They may be looking elsewhere for some such an evidence. That is why I rang you up.”

“Good, give me a written statement of what you told me signed by both of you. Do you have the receipt for the amount paid to the auctioneers? Can I meet the carpenter who assisted you? His submission would corroborate your statement. He must be working today also. Take me to the adjacent apartment and show him. You don’t have to talk, is it clear? “Samuel told Lalita.

He came back after talking to the carpenter and told Lalita that he would revert if there is any new development and that she can also inform him in the meanwhile if she recollects anything of relevance.

Surprisingly the same evening, Samuel rang up to say that he was coming again and hoped Mohan was also there to elicit some clarification.

As soon as he relaxed himself on a chair wiping his perspiring face and neck with a kerchief, he wished for water in a steel tumbler. He drank the water fully and turned the tumbler in his hand till his eyes rested on an engraving LB.

He turned to Mohan and asked him to get any vessel from kitchen and found a similar engraving there. “I think this knife also belongs to you,” as he produced the cleaned knife that had the same engraving at the neck to Lalita.

“Yes, it is ours. I have the habit of engraving the initials on every vessel or metal thing I buy,” she added.

This makes the investigation narrower. Except you and your husband, who all could have had access to this. Any maid servant?” Samuel asked.

“I have an old maid for sweeping and swiping and I rule her out completely. She is simple and guileless” said a heavily perspiring Lalita.

“You look distraught and under stress. Do you have anything else to confide? Think carefully,” said the inspector.

She kept quiet, looked at Mohan and then lowered her eyes.

“Never mind. Since I left this place in the morning, I made several discreet enquiries from different people. There were some missing links that you had not provided. I learn that you are well to do, you own this apartment and that you have two vehicles of your own. I expected to have a truthful statement from you about your married life and children if any. Please remember that I have a lot of information already,” he told Lalita softly but in a formal manner.

When she looked at Mohan in a confused manner, he persuaded her to answer straightforwardly and that truth is always desirable.

Lalita took a deep breath and started talking, “I have a few things to tell you that I have not told initially when you came this morning. I am in deep anguish for the last few days and clueless on certain matter. I feared if I revealed all Balu would be in trouble though I was not sure how. I will tell you now the unvarnished facts,” said Lalita.

Hurriedly drinking water, she continued, “I was married to a business person arranged by my parents. He seemed all right initially till my first child was born. Unfortunately, the baby was under developed and was unable to speak. He had fits of violent temper occasionally when he felt he was threatened. I named him Raja as he was still a prince to me and looked very charming with beautiful eyes and curly hairs. My husband took an instant dislike for him and within three years left me alone with my son. As I felt that my son’s future would not be pleasant or secure with the man, we took a divorce. As my parents were very wealthy, finance was no problem. After they died I moved to this apartment as the big house was lonely.

It was about three years back, Balu came into my life. A good friend of mine introduced me to him after informing him about my being a divorcee with a differently abled child and may be also about my financial status. He assured her that he would take care of the child as his own and that I was safe in his hands. Balu is very handsome and well-built muscular guy. I was also drawn to him. My friend however cautioned me that she did not know him much except that he was a gregarious and popular guy in the parties she went. She advised me to study him over couple of years during the dating period before committing myself to a marriage. Foolish as I was and wanting a companion all the time, I threw caution to winds and soon registered our marriage as he wished.”

“What made you think you were foolish? He must be a qualified fellow, employed decently and be a loving dad to your son as he had promised,” said Samuel.

“He called himself a business consultant with a PG diploma from a prestigious institute. I have not seen him go for work regularly or contribute to the household expenses or earning anything but it seemed only living off me. He had expensive habits and a heavy drinker. But he was such a good lover and kept me very happy that I overlooked these drawbacks. He also seemed to be a loving dad carrying the boy on his shoulders and giving him chocolates and toys. He took him around in the car for drive and to play areas in the local park. I was happy that they took to each other till one day the boy came running screaming in pain showing his thigh. He had been pinched so hard that the skin had turned blue. When I confronted Balu, he smiled and lifted the boy on his shoulders and started running like a horse to pacify him. The child innocently laughed. He said later that when the boy turned unruly he punished him but felt sorry for hurting him. I kept quiet but decided never to leave the boy alone with him and employed a nanny to take care of him.”

When she was silent with her eyes turning moist, the Inspector told her,” Please proceed. You are telling cogently.”

She continued,” Three days ago, I had to go to register a property near Kanchipuram that would take me the whole day. My husband offered to stay at home to take care of the boy. Nevertheless, I asked the nanny to make doubly sure the boy was not out of her sight. The boy demurred with tears flowing from eyes. As the work was urgent, I steeled myself and left. When I returned in the evening, I found to my horror Balu sleeping in the bedroom with no trace of boy or the nanny.”

“My god, pray proceed,” prompted the Inspector.

“When I rudely woke him up and asked where my child Raja was, he blurted the boy is missing and evidently ran away on his own. As the boy initially wished to sleep, he sent the nanny away and he also lay by his side. Soon he also dozed to sleep like the boy. When he woke up, the boy was missing in the bed and the door was ajar. The gate keeper also had not seen the boy. Possibly nanny did not close the door behind her properly and the boy found it easy to go outside. It seemed Balu was greatly worried and immediately took the car to drive hither and thither in the vicinity in vain to trace him. He was waiting restlessly for me to return to decide the next course of action. He suspected it could be a case of kidnapping for ransom,” she explained.

“Why did he not ring you up when the child was not found?” Samuel asked.

“Exactly, he said he did not want to frighten me when at an important work and after the futile search, he was hoping to get a ransom call from someone,” she said and added,” He also dissuaded me to lodge a police complaint as culprits generally kill the victims when they suspect police are after them and that we can wait for a demand call. So far no call has been received. He also went two days back on a very urgent business to get a big contract. We are expecting him anytime today or tomorrow.”

“No, he will not come nor a ransom call will be received by you,” he said cryptically

Shocked, both Lalita and Mohan shouted in chorus,” How are you so sure? What about Raja?”

“Sadly for you, Balu is in our custody and confessed to everything after some evidence and usual police treatment. He is not what he appeared to you. Chased by ruthless recovery agents, a crook by himself, a much married man, he turned a criminal,” said the inspector softly aware of the devastating shock it would cause on Lalita.”

He added, “Do not grieve. You are safer and better off without him. I am very sorry for your young son,” he added.

She screamed, “What happened to him? Is he safe?”

“Please listen patiently. Balu was waiting for an opportune moment to get rid of the boy probably wanting you dote blindly on him with all your wealth that he can lay his hands on. He sent the nanny away after you left. The boy was angry at this and came running to attack your hubby with the knife he found in kitchen. Balu in rage stuffed the boy’s mouth with cloth and plunged the knife in his throat. He calmly bundled him in a plastic bag and brought it down carefully unseen as most were asleep after lunch. He left behind the knife as he wished to keep it clean in the kitchen and hid it temporarily underneath the sofa as he was in hurry. One sweeper who was cleaning the car parking area saw him putting a heavy bag inside the trunk. When he came near in curiosity, Balu shouted him away to mind his own business. I knew how much you are missing your son, how he dreaded his dad and your inability to express your suspicions about your husband. We got information about a highly decomposed dead body of a boy in plastic bag from a discarded well near chengleput. Does your son have any unique distinguishing mark for easy identification?” he asked.

“A sixth finger on his left thumb,” she replied

“Oh, that clinches it.

I want you to come with me to confront Balu. Do remember he deserves absolutely no compassion or clemency when he killed a young defenseless disabled child.”

She steeled herself to see justice is done to her dear Raja and agreed to go with the inspector along with Mohan.

 


Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Krishna's magic

It was a late Friday evening. Sarang and Sumitra had just finished watching a movie reclining on their bed. Normally she would tell him about the different aspects of the film and whether she liked the film or not. Today she was silent looking at the ceiling vacantly. Something amiss, Sarang felt.

He turning to her side put his arm around her and asked her, “Are you having headache? You are unusually silent and not spoken a word about the film as you are wont to. I liked it.” Finding her unresponsive, he pulled her face towards his, gently pushed the hair from her face and gave a peck on her forehead.

“What is bothering you, Sumi? Come out,” he cajoled her.

After some silence, she started telling, “Today I went to my mom’s place in the afternoon. My grandma had come there from my uncle’s house for a week. As usual she again gave vent to her frustration chiding me, mockingly though, at my inability to give her a great grandchild. She started reminding me that I was married four years back and that many girls in the locality subsequently married have babies and one is in family way for the second.”

When mom saw my eyes moist, she remonstrated with her mom saying,” it is all God’s grace. Why do you embarrass Sumi when she has come specifically to meet you?” and added,” Tell me what can she do except seek the grace of God.”

“That made my grandma realize her fault and she hugged me regretting for her foolishness,” Sumi said with a wry smile.

Sarang smiled at her and pulling her closer to him assured her,” Doctors have already said that there is nothing wrong with us and in some cases it takes time. Anyway we will go to Sri Krishna temple tomorrow and seek His blessings.”

The next evening when they were at the sanctum of Sri Krishna temple luckily there were none. The priest who was known to them well welcomed them heartily. Both Sarang and Sumi with closed eyes prayed intensely. After the darisan, when they were coming out of sanctum, the priest called them and gave Sumi a big picture of Lord Krishna seen washing the legs of His boyhood friend Sudhama.

When they looked at him with surprise, the priest said with an impish smile, “This picture reminds us how Bhagwan gave his friend unasked for in abundance what he needed most, wealth and prosperity. He knows what His devotees desire. I am very sure He will bless you soon. Keep this picture prominently in your room.”

It was about nine months later, Sumi heard her mother-in-law vomiting in muffled manner in the bath room. She was nearing 50. She was shocked  when she saw Sumi standing outside the bathroom and started sobbing in embarrassment. Sumi consoled her and persuaded her not to feel guilty about it.

Sarang made a remark with a mischievous smile, that as priest had assured, Krishna was benevolent true to his nature though it was misplaced. The mistake lay with him as he hung the picture in the living room instead of their bedroom.

When priest was told, he said, “Who can divine what the Lord would do? May be if you move for a short while to a separate place, your wishes may be fulfilled.”

Sarang moved to a first floor of a house closer to office and was hoping for the miracle to happen. Exactly after a year, Sumi saw the landlady who had already three children ambling along with her protruded stomach. The Lord had again missed His target, it seemed to the couple.

Fed up with this yearning and waiting, they decided to return to their parent’s place where a baby boy was waiting for them! They decided to leave it to what destiny has decided for them. Meanwhile there is the little baby brother to shower their love and affection, Sumi calmed herself.

Sarang in an irritated mood, decided to throw away the picture but Sumi prevailed upon him to give it to someone needy. It so happened when he went to his regular provision store to buy somethings, the owner Shanmugam was lamenting that he was losing nearly a lakh of rupees a year by the rodents eating away the groceries. All his efforts to eradicate the menace failed and there was no way unless the old building that housed many shops is demolished and reconstructed.

“This is out of question,” he said and added,” So I brought a cat hoping it would put an end to the rat menace. But this lazy feline is mostly asleep and has not eliminated even one.”

There was a sudden flash in Sarang’s mind and he jumped in glee when he found out where exactly to leave the picture.

” Shanmugam, I have a solution and you simply follow my advice and you will be rid of this nuisance in six months, I bet.,” he said.

He rushed to his two wheeler and brought out the picture. “Keep this hanging behind you in the counter. Krishna’s magic will be done surely. I have seen this happen personally in two cases,” assured Sarang. Shanmugam immediately hung the picture behind his table.

Sarang had forgotten about this totally. It was almost a year since he went to bazaar. When he heard someone hailing,” Sir, please step into my shop and see for yourself”. He turned to see a beaming Shanmugam behind him. who literally dragged him to see his shop. Sarang was aghast to witness a clowder of cats romping and compering about on the gunny bags, shelves and in every nook of the shop.

“My god, you are a blessed man! I hope the rat menace no longer exists and there is no loss also,” Sarang remarked.

“Yes, Sir, thanks to you and the picture. But I cannot manage so many cats. They are growing in number that I can hardly handle. Kindly take this picture with you,” he said handing over the picture.

Sarang could see the bewildered face of Sumi on seeing the picture and assured her that he would keep it in their rosewood bureau in their bedroom away from the eyes of others.

Need it be told that six months later Sumi woke him up one night complaining of nausea and that both broke into a broad smile realizing the magic finally wrought by Krishna!


Sunday, May 9, 2021

A host of golden daffodils..dancing in the breeze

This is a forward by email in 2009 to me. I do not have the sender’s or site's details. But I wish to share with you as it has a great message for all of us. I have added a few words

Several times my daughter Carolyn had telephoned to say, "Mother, you must come to see the daffodils before they are over.'' I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead.

“Why don’t you come on Mother’s day and have lunch with us,” she pressed again

"Surely, I will be there", I promised,

The day dawned cold and rainy. Nevertheless, I had given word. Though loath to make the journey, I drove there. When I finally walked into Carolyn's house, I was welcomed by the joyful sounds of happy children. I delightedly hugged and greeted my grandchildren.

"Forget the daffodils, Carolyn. The road is invisible in these clouds and fog. There is nothing in the world, except you and these children that I want to see badly enough to drive another inch!"

My daughter smiled calmly and said, "We drive in this all the time, Mother."

"Well, you won't get me back on the road until it clears, and then I'm heading for home!"

"But first we're going to see the daffodils. It's just a few blocks," Carolyn said. Sensing my incredulity, she added, “Don’t worry, mother. I'll drive. I'm used to this."

Soon, we were sputtering our way through the grim mist. Only a desolate road in sight and a howling wind for company. I glowered at my otherwise sane and sensible Carolyn, who was so hell-bent on this daft venture.

"Carolyn," I said sternly, "Please turn around."

"It's all right, Mother, I promise. You will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience."

After about twenty minutes, we turned onto a small gravel road and I saw a small church. On the far side of the church, I saw a hand lettered sign with an arrow that read: "Daffodil Garden". We got out of the car, each taking a child's hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path. Then, as we turned a corner, I looked up and gasped.

Before me lay the most glorious sight.

It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it over the mountain peak and its surrounding slopes. The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns: sweeping swathes of deep orange, creamy white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, and saffron and butter yellow. Each differently-colored variety was planted in large clusters such that each swirled and flowed like a river with its own unique hue. There were five acres of flowers.

"Who did this?" I asked Carolyn.

"Just one woman," Carolyn answered. "She lives on the property. That's her home." Carolyn pointed to a well-kept A-frame house, petitely sitting in the midst of all that glory. We walked up to the house.

On the patio, we saw a poster. "Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking", was the caption in flowing, cursive letters. The first answer was a simple one. "50,000 bulbs," it read. The second answer was, "One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet, and one brain." The third answer was, "Began in 1958."

For me, that moment was a life-altering experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met; who, more than forty years before, had begun, one bulb at a time, to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountaintop. Planting one bulb at a time, year after year, this unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived. One day at a time, she had created something of extraordinary magnificence, beauty, and inspiration.

The daffodil garden taught me one of the greatest principles of celebration. That is, learning to move toward our goals and aspirations one step at a time -- often just one baby-step at a time - and learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time. When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things, even change the world.

"It makes me sad in a way," I admitted to Carolyn. "What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty-five or forty years ago, and had worked away at it 'one bulb at a time' through all those years? Just think what I might have been able to achieve!"

My daughter summed up the message of the day in her usual, plainspoken way. "Start today," she said.

She was right. It was so pointless to think of the lost hours of yesterdays. The way to make learning a lesson of celebration, instead of a cause for regret, was to only ask, "How can I put this to use today?"

Use the Daffodil Principle. Stop waiting...

Until your car is paid off...

Until you get a new home...

Until you organize the garage...

Until you declutter your desk...

Until you lose or gain weight...

Until summer/spring/winter/fall...

There is no better time than right now to be happy. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

Don't be afraid that your life will end. Be afraid that it will never begin!

Saturday, February 13, 2021

A Valentine soup

(With no new stories to offer, I present a decade old one that is topical and sure to bring a smile).

There was always a riot of laughter in the common room for women in that office. The women employees often escaped the boredom of facing the computer monitor all the time  by rushing in here for some fun and  juicy gossip that were never in dearth. You could see clusters of ladies talking animatedly  or in hushed tones depending upon the explosive nature and the secrecy that shrouded the matter.

 It could hover around a plain topic like the new hairstyle of the staid Angela or the  plunging neckline of vampish Vanita or the stale smell of upma cooked with heavy dose of hing that emanated from Soundarya’s lunch box or just the rude behaviour of the manager Manickavasagam or the unctuous smile and double entendres of the aged Muthuswamy iyer.

But more often than not, the chatter revolved over the known  Romeos and stylish hunks  of the office whom they loved to flirt with  and guessing who could be their likely quarries. Some even boasted of their dates with them. There were a few prudes who pretended not to be paying attention to what is being said but their ears actually tuned sharp not to miss even one word. It is in this room that reputations are made or marred as nothing escaped their hawk-like eyes, sharp ears and wide mouths.

However, we are concerned now about Namitha in the same office who has fallen in love with Sekhar her colleague, a handsome chap who was quiet and deep. Very few knew about him as he kept his counsel to himself. Namitha was attracted to him when one day he offered to help her reconcile some discrepancy in her work. They stayed late and it took much effort to locate the mistake. That was about a year back and since then she has been dating him. Whenever she broached the subject of marriage, he was evasive and pleaded for some time till his younger sister got married. He never took her to his home and kept his love for her  away from his parents. The one thing that bothered her much  was his miserly  nature and whatever gifts he gave her were cheap stuff. Namitha’s parents were affluent and she was accustomed to use only classy things.

Even this, she did not mind but upset about what he did two weeks back. They took a day off from work and left for Mahabalipuram on his motorbike to spend the day amongst the rock temples and the beach. When it was lunch time he took her to an expensive restaurant for food. He ordered many items and it was a fabulous lunch. When the bill came Sekhar had quietly gone away to wash room. She then remembered he always did so making her pay and quite often pleaded that he had inadvertently forgotten his purse or the card. She paid for the lunch and when he returned he took no notice of her settling the bill nor did he mention one word of apology.

A few days later, Namitha pulled out Sajita another colleague from the common room to a corner  and said to her, “I wish to talk something personal in private with you.” She knew Sajita was an ex friend of Sekhar and that they moved away after a short but intense friendship.

“Tell me, Namith, what I can do for you” she asked

“It is about Sekhar. You are aware of my friendship with him for more than a year. There are two things that worry me. I wish to seek your advice.” Namitha said

“Proceed, I am listening” Sajitha replied

"Whenever I broach about marriage he recedes into his shell and tells about his sister’s pending marriage. I have a suspicion he just wants to prolong the friendship without any commitment. Secondly I find him tight fisted. He never opens his purse and makes me pay for all expenses. Though I can afford, I do not want to be tied to a stingy person. I am also not sure whether he is open with me as many times I find his mobile switched off for long time” Namitha said.

“I am not surprised. Let me take you to Sukanya who put me wise about that rogue before I broke away from him.”

Sukanya laughed when she heard from Sajitha and said with a smile  “So you are his current prey, Namitha?. He is a wolf in sheep's clothing and a scoundrel of the first water. He has no sister and it is all hogwash. He has had   fun with many girls at their expense and when he loses interest, he will go after new pastures. With his meagre salary he cannot entertain the many girls with whom he has had liaison. He should be thrown out soonest no doubt  but I have a suggestion before you ditch him”. She pulled Namitha close to her and whispered something with a naughty smile.

Three days later on the eve of Valentine day, Namitha took him to a five-star hotel saying she was in a mood to celebrate the Valentine spirit. She ordered a lavish supper and some costly drinks for him. She giggled and snuggled making  him think she was an easy conquest for the evening. Just before the last course she excused herself to the restroom. Sekhar happily and leisurely  enjoyed the drinks dreaming about the pleasant time ahead. When the server brought the bill, she was not to be seen. He waited for nearly 45 minutes squirming in the seat and there was no trace of her. The server had come to the table thrice already. This time, he truly, had neither his purse nor the credit card.  It is not necessary to relate in detail the unpleasant and humiliating outcome of his failure to settle the expensive bill.

The gossip doing the rounds ever since in the women’s common room was that he was in a real soup at the hotel that evening and that he was seen cleaning the dishes, sweeping the floors and wiping the tables till someone brought him  the money late in the night. They were jubilant that Namitha paid him back in the same coin before wisely ditching him as if he were a real plague.